This post is Part 2 of a response to a suggestion made by Ingrid Koehler of Local Government Improvement and Development.  If you don’t see it on this page, Part 1 is here.

D3 (daughter No. 3) has just revealed she sneaked a look at Part 1 of these two linked posts.  I got the usual honest feedback, my finely crafted text being dubbed a “rant”.  I can take it.  Each visit racks up the number of page views and moves me up the league of business-based blogs.  Not that I’m one for targets you understand.

What D3 characterised as a rant was deliberate.

How easy it would have been to summarise my tale of travel woe.

I was stranded in Madrid by the appalling weather that closed Heathrow before Christmas.  The airline got me home as quickly as they could.

And that’s true.

But customer service is all about the attention to detail.

Here are my 15 golden rules to avoid the private sector mistakes I experienced. You might need to read across to Part 1 to check how they relate to my Madrid experience.  But trust me they do.

  1. Have a system and a plan for major foreseeable problems but respond flexibly when the chaos actually happens.
  2. Take responsibility for your customers even if what’s happened isn’t your fault.
  3. Be honest.  Explain what’s happening.  If you don’t know say so but find out as soon as possible and tell people.  In fact keep telling them everything you can by whatever means are needed.
  4. Get more staff on duty to deal with problems.  Don’t let problems grow uncontrollably.
  5. Don’t hide your staff or let them hide when things get tricky.  Do a stint out there yourself so you know what it’s like for them and your customers.
  6. Listen to your customers.  Counter rumour and mis-information.
  7. Try hard not to let people wait a long time for service.  If you have to, consider issuing numbered tickets (à la supermarket deli counter) so people can take a break from waiting.
  8. Empower your staff to go the extra mile to meet people’s needs.  Be clear to them about the high standards you expect.  Thank them for their efforts.
  9. Suspend normal rules.  If the crisis is going on 24/7 don’t leave your call centre running Monday-Friday 9-5.
  10. Be fair to customers, whatever that means in the circumstances.  Let them know how you’re being fair.
  11. It doesn’t always matter if you get it wrong but how you recover is critical and determines what customers think of you.
  12. Don’t start by relying on law or regulation to provide redress but where you have to don’t get it wrong.
  13. Say sorry.
  14. Use your brain.  Don’t do plain daft things.
  15. When it’s all over hold a post mortem (after action review in management speak) before memories of what happened fade.  Update the plan for next time.

And if you’re feeling smug about how the private sector gets it wrong, don’t.  I can think of occasions, some of them serious and large-scale, where public bodies I could name have got almost all of my golden rules wrong.  I’ll bet you could too.